By now, you probably already know that I'm a believer in aggressive FAAB spending early in the season. Yes, a premium must be paid for potential difference makers who have the luxury of several months to make a meaningful contribution to your fantasy squad. When it comes to non-mixed leagues, however, a more conservative approach is common in anticipation of the MLB trade deadline, when a number of high-end players from the AL can be traded to the NL, and vice versa. You may want to have enough FAAB dollars remaining to win at least one of these players. Still, if you're in a NL-only league, for example, there's no guarantee that this frugal strategy will pay off. Maybe all of the big names switching leagues will be heading to the AL, and there are few things more depressing in fantasy baseball than overpaying for mediocre waiver wire options simply because you have a wad of unspent FAAB. So, while I do practice more restraint in my non-mixed leagues, I'm not one of those owners who sticks to $0 or $1 bids during the first half of the season. There's simply too much downside involved in that strategy.
Anyway, with the trade deadline now in the books, let's take a look at the top players who switched leagues and instantly became must-have waiver wire targets. Note that I already discussed Aroldis Chapman, Melvin Upton Jr. and Eduardo Nunez in last week's column.
Drew Pomeranz - After a rocky start to his big league career while with the Rockies, Pomeranz is finally living up to his former top prospect status. The 27-year-old southpaw strung together two straight highly successful seasons with the A's from 2014-2015, splitting time between the starting rotation and the bullpen, and he was dominant during his time in the Padres rotation this season. But since his trade to the Red Sox, Pomeranz has alternated poor starts with strong outings. Aside from the inconsistency, another cause for concern is that he's already allowed five home runs through his first four starts for Boston, this compared to eight homers allowed in 17 starts with the Padres. While Pomeranz is likely to show improvement going forward, AL-only owners who were counting on continued ace-level production despite the unfavorable change of scenery might have been asking for too much.
Matt Moore - Speaking of former top prospects, Moore has quietly rebounded well from a dreadful 2015 campaign, sporting a decent 4.04 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 7.7 K/9 rate through 22 starts this season. Moving from the last place Rays and the AL East to the first place Giants and the NL West can only be considered a good thing. Moore began his Giants career on a mostly positive note, tossing six innings of two-run ball while striking out seven, though the six walks are a bit alarming. Regardless, new owners of Moore in NL-only leagues can safely activate him and not worry about that starting slot for the remainder of the season. And in a non-mixed league, there's value in that.
Rich Hill - I remember owning Hill back in 2007, viewing him as an emerging ace who would be deserving of an early-round selection for years to come. Not quite. In fact, 2007 happens to be the only season in which Hill has logged at least 100 innings, as a combination of injuries and ineffectiveness have derailed him. But a late-career resurgence, first as a reliever and then as a starter, has once again placed him on the fantasy map. In 14 starts for the A's this season, the veteran lefty went 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 90 strikeouts in 76 innings. But injuries have been an issue yet again, and his Dodgers debut is on hold as he deals with a blister on his throwing hand. Those who spent big bucks on Hill in NL-only leagues simply need to be patient.
Josh Reddick - Although Reddick's 32-homer campaign in 2012 can now be safely called an anomaly, the former A's right fielder has been a useful fantasy asset in recent years, when healthy. And he was healthy last year, finishing the season with 20 homers and 77 RBI. He's been mostly healthy this year, though the stat line isn't as strong.
The new Dodger is indeed a useful fantasy asset, but a true difference maker? Not exactly.
So go ahead, save all of your FAAB dollars for the trade deadline. But don't complain when the grand prize is Josh Reddick.
Unless you play in a fantasy league where the trade deadline coincides with the actual MLB trade deadline, you're probably better off waiting until next week before making any significant swaps. As we all know, most real-life trades carry fantasy implications, either for the players directly involved in the exchange or for other players who could be indirectly affected. So, rushing to make a trade now, just days before we will learn about potential value changes, is not a very smart idea.
As the unfortunate owner of Hector Rondon in one league, thanks to the Aroldis Chapman trade, I'm now left with only two closers. And since one of those closers, Jim Johnson, will more than likely be dealt to a team that will use him as a middle reliever, I'm getting ready to trade for a second saves source, and a good one. I've already contacted the Mark Melancon owner, who is enjoying a comfortable lead in the saves category. But before parting with a valuable asset in order to secure Melancon's services, I need to wait a few more days. With Melancon also reportedly on the trade block, I must make sure that he will be closing next week. In all likelihood, he will still be handling the ninth inning, whether it be for the Pirates or for some other team. Still, I need to be 100 percent certain.
On that note, let's take a fantasy-angled look at the notable trades that were made over the past week.
Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs
As mentioned above, this is terrible news for Hector Rondon owners, who now lose a high-end stopper in exchange for absolutely nothing. Chapman's status as arguably the top closer in baseball remains the same while former Yankees closer Andrew Miller becomes the new Yankees closer. Outside of shallow mixed leagues, there's little chance that Miller ever made it to the waiver wire. Even without the saves, the lanky lefty was posting dominant enough numbers to warrant a place on most mixed league rosters. His owners now receive a top-tier closer for free.
Melvin Upton Jr. to the Blue Jays
When I took a chance on Upton Jr. in the 34th round of my NFBC Draft Champions draft back in February, I didn't quite know what to expect. But as my eighth outfielder, the elder Upton would not need to do much to earn his price tag. Well, he's looking a lot like the player who went by the name of B.J. and played for the Rays, hitting for power and swiping bags at a steady rate. On the surface, moving from San Diego to Toronto might seem like a good thing due to the superior supporting cast. But playing time could become an issue and the artificial turf factor might result in fewer stolen base attempts. I'm not too happy about this, but seriously, asking for anything more from Melvin this season would be greedy.
Eduardo Nunez to the Giants
Who saw this coming? And no, I'm not talking about the trade. A career-long part-time player, Nunez is in the midst of a career year this season, batting .296 with 12 homers, 47 RBI and 49 runs scored through 92 games while ranking 4th in the Majors in steals (27). He will initially serve as the starting third baseman for the Giants, though with Matt Duffy due to come off the DL soon, Nunez may shift to another position. The good news is that he can play several other positions, so he should continue to see regular at-bats as long as he continues to stuff the stat sheet.
Andrew Cashner to the Marlins
Since posting a 2.55 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in a 19-start 2014 campaign, Cashner has been a disappointment, barely worth a roster spot even in a deep mixed league. And this season has been no exception. But he's been pitching very well of late, registering a 2.55 ERA and 0.79 WHIP over his last three starts with 23 strikeouts across 17 2/3 innings. Maybe playing for a team in postseason contention will inspire him to be more consistent. Or maybe not. At this point, I'm not overly optimistic.
Editor's Note: Since Zach's diary entry, Melancon was indeed traded to the Washington Nationals where he'll close, pushing Jonathan Papelbon to set-up. Rumor has it Zach is trying to get the jump on another closer since the Papelbon owner, as well as Cody Allen's owner are now also in the market for more saves.
Baseball is a strange game. As much as fantasy owners try to predict player performance, the reality is that strange things happen every year. As much as I like to glance at post-draft, end of season standings projections, the reality is that they mean nothing. So, as we approach the All-Star break, let's take some time to celebrate the strangeness of this game by looking at some stats that do not make any sense. Then again, maybe we shouldn't be surprised.
Melvin Upton Jr. leads his younger brother, Justin, in all five standard rotisserie hitting categories. What year is it again?
Andrew McCutchen ranks 6th on his own team in OPS (.727), trailing Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte but also a trio of fantasy studs in David Freese, John Jaso and Jordy Mercer.
Adrian Gonzalez has fewer home runs through three-plus months (6) than he tallied in April alone last season (8). I hate to say it, because Adrian has been a favorite of mine over the years, but he's clearly past his prime.
Ben Revere, a career .289 hitter, sports a .225 batting average through his first 52 games as a member of the Nationals.
Didi Gregorius has slugged more homers (10) than his slightly more accomplished slugger teammate, Alex Rodriguez (8).
Among NL hurlers, only five pitchers have allowed more hits than Matt Harvey. The only good news for Harvey owners is that he won't be allowing any more hits this season.
2015 AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel has a higher hits allowed rate (9.8 H/9) than Jeff Locke (9.7 H/9).
Through 19 starts this year, Chris Archer has allowed just one fewer home run than he served up all of last season.
Steven Wright's ERA (2.68) is nearly two full runs lower than that of his teammate, David Price. Price is getting paid 30 million bucks this season while Wright is taking home a little over 1/60 of that amount.
In the exact same number of innings (112 1/3), J.A. Happ has whiffed more batters (89) than Masahiro Tanaka (88).
After recording just one career save prior to this season, Jeanmar Gomez ranks 6th in the Majors in saves (24).
While we're on the subject of saves, Trevor Rosenthal, who notched a combined 93 saves from 2014-2015 and was on average the #6 closer off the board in NFBC drafts this spring, isn't saving any games these days after losing his ninth inning gig. He might regain the job at some point this season, but who says investing in the "elite" closers is a risk-free draft day strategy?
Mike Trout, who swiped just 11 bags last season, has more stolen bases (15) than Gregory Polanco (9), who collected 27 steals in 2015.
Adam Duvall has hit more homers (22) and driven in more runs (60) than Chris Davis (21 HR, 56 RBI).
Wilson Ramos, the owner of a career .268 AVG, ranks 2nd in the NL in batting average (.332). And of course, after owning Ramos in Tout Wars in both 2014 and 2015, I finally decided to pass on him this year.
But I mentioned this at the end of last week's column as well. Maybe I need to move on.
Maybe the past isn't always an accurate predictor of the future. But every year at this time, as the unofficial second half of the baseball season gets underway, I do like to glance at second half stats from the previous season. Maybe this exercise will help me identify players to target in potential trades. Or maybe this exercise will be a waste of time. I'm not a strong believer in the "second half player" theory, but I don't think it should be dismissed entirely. And besides, it's always better to be informed. On that note, let's open the 2015 record book and take a look at some of the Post-All-Star Break leaders. Each of these players ranked among the top-10 in at least one of the five standard rotisserie hitting categories. Note that for batting average, I'm requiring an at-bat minimum of 200.
Shin-Soo Choo: .343 AVG (4th in MLB) - Not only did Choo hit for a high average, but he also ranked 3rd in OBP (.455) and was tied for 3rd in runs (56). Injuries have limited the Rangers outfielder to just 31 games this season, but if he can stay healthy down the stretch, Choo could reward his patient owners with a strong finish. The proven across-the-board producer is especially valuable in OBP leagues (career .382 OBP).
Khris Davis: 21 HR (Tied for 7th in MLB) - Adding Davis to my roster during the FAAB period immediately following the All-Star break was undoubtedly my best Tout Wars move last season, as he quickly became my most consistent home run source. The 28-year-old was purchased for a mere five bucks at the Mixed Auction Tout Wars draft back in March, and this lack of interest surprised me. Reliable power is hard to find on the waiver wire and usually carries a hefty price tag in a trade. Well, Davis has maintained his home run stroke so far this season, as he's on pace to finish with 36 homers and 103 RBI. If he comes anywhere close to matching last season's second half output, he will easily reach those gaudy projections.
Adrian Beltre: 61 RBI (5th in MLB) - There seems to be this feeling that Beltre has been disappointing this season, but he's performing at just about the level of his draft day price ($15 in Mixed Auction Tout Wars). Projecting his 2016 totals over a full season, we get 21 homers and 97 RBI to go along with his .281 AVG. And that's if he doesn't enjoy another second half boost. Pretty good for a 37-year-old who is past his prime.
Curtis Granderson: 55 Runs (5th in MLB) - Speaking of $15 players, that's exactly the price I paid for Granderson this year. And I'm not thrilled with what I've gotten so far. Then again, my initial expectations might have been unreasonable. Through 84 games, Grandy is on pace for 27 home runs, and since the beginning of June, he's quietly raised his OBP from .305 to .337. As for his underwhelming totals in runs and RBI, an underperforming Mets lineup is largely to blame.
Dee Gordon: 25 SB (1st in MLB) - Remember him? Actually, now is a good time to remember Gordon, as he's slated to return from his 80-game PED suspension before the end of the month. This is the same Dee Gordon who swiped a combined 122 bases from 2014-2015, so 20 steals over the final two-plus months of the season is certainly attainable.
Maybe the past isn't always an accurate predictor of the future. But in the case of Gordon, I'm going to trust the past.
Prioritizing hitting over pitching on draft day is the way to go, and I don't think my stance on this will change anytime soon. The early-round hitters are generally more consistent from year to year than the early-round pitchers, and it's often easier to find breakout pitchers on the waiver wire throughout the season than it is to add a highly productive bat. And even among the mid-round and late-round draft picks, it's harder to predict the pleasant surprises on the offensive side. But that doesn't mean it's impossible. Just ask the owners of these players, and while you're at it, congratulate them on a job well done. For each of the five standard rotisserie hitting categories, I've chosen one player who unexpectedly ranks among the league leaders.
Adam Duvall: 22 HR (4th in MLB) - How many fantasy owners even knew who this guy was heading into the season? Duvall is certainly making the most of his first extended stay in the big leagues, and though expecting him to finish the year with 40-plus homers sounds a little crazy (he's destined for a power drought at some point), he doesn't need to do much to surpass 30 home runs. Note that in 125 games at Triple-A last season, Duvall recorded a .264-30-87 line. Pretty good. I wouldn't be in a hurry to trade him at a steep discount in anticipation of the bottom falling out.
Wil Myers: 57 RBI (8th in MLB) - Maybe we really shouldn't be surprised. After all, Myers is a former Rookie of the Year, and he's finally healthy this season. But with 12 homers and 35 RBI since the beginning of June, he's now on pace to close out 2016 with 38 home runs and 115 RBI. Considering his tremendous first half along with his name recognition, I would at least think about dealing him as the return could be substantial.
Ian Desmond: 60 R (Tied for 5th in MLB) - Based on the Desmond signing alone (one-year, $8 million), the Rangers are looking like the winners of this past offseason. I did expect a bounce back season from Desmond, but this? Not quite. In addition to the .323 batting average (career .268 AVG), the 60 runs are especially noteworthy being that he has yet to score more than 77 runs in a season. While a significant batting average regression is likely (.394 BABIP), how about 25 homers, 85 RBI and 90 runs sound from a shortstop-eligible player with a NFBC ADP of 107? And those projections are conservative.
Jonathan Villar: 26 SB (1st in MLB) - OK, the stolen base production isn't really surprising, as we all knew that Villar had speed. The surprising part is that he is still Milwaukee's everyday shortstop. The 25-year-old was supposed to be merely a placeholder until the Brewers called up top prospect Orlando Arcia sometime in June. Well, June is over and Villar is batting .301 with 40 runs and a .383 OBP to go along with the 26 swipes. Arcia is posting fine numbers in Triple-A, but at this point, there's little incentive for the club to make a change. Perhaps a trade is in Villar's near future.
Wilson Ramos: .340 AVG (4th in MLB) - You're kidding, right? The year that I finally decide to move on from drafting Ramos in multiple leagues is the year that he decides to stay healthy and register a batting average more than 70 points above his career mark. His .350 BABIP strongly suggests that a correction is in store. But Ramos is rewarding his owners with more than just a high batting average, as he leads all catchers in RBI (44) and is tied for 2nd in home runs (12). If you're fortunate enough to be a Ramos owner, stick with him.
I wish I did.